Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Looking Sharp: Those Knives You're Cooking With

At work in the kitchenware store, I get to handle a lot of knives. Some are really fabulous store stock, and others belong to customers who've brought them in for sharpening. I'm so often appalled at what folks bring in to be sharpened, I can't even begin to tell you. The worst are the ones that still have food clinging to them. Like raw chicken bits.  Totally gross. That's rare, though. What I'm talking about is the poor quality, the condition and the sizes. At least half look like they're from a late night TV pitchman, and about a quarter of them look like they've been used to build a masonry patio, which leaves very few good ones looking like their owners care much about them at all.

I'm starting to think that not only should basic cooking skills be taught to all schoolchildren, but also basic knife skills. Then, perhaps so many women wouldn't try to do all their kitchen cutting with a paring knife. Can't tell you how many people, mostly women, shrink in fear when I put a standard chefs knife into their hand, and then how many of them smile when they're shown how to hold it properly. Changes the way you feel about a cooking knife when it feels like an extension of your hand. Instead of a sword, which is how so many folks grasp a cooking knife. I can't imagine how these women have cooked meal after meal, year after year, with these itty-bitty knives they bring in to have sharpened. How DO they cut a watermelon???

Good, sharp knives make your job easier, safer and quicker. Using a poor knife to make daily meals is like trying to build a house with a childs plastic tool set. If you are at all serious about cooking well, be sure your knives are of durable quality, and are maintained properly. Remember, they're tools you will use daily, so get good ones. Do that and you'll have them for years. A cheap knife is NOT good enough if you cook to eat every day.

You really don't need a whole knife block full of knives to cook well, although it's sure nice to have the right tool for each job. Generally, most kitchens should start with three decent knives, and extras can be added to suit the preferences of the households cooking and eating habits. A sharp, useful trinity. A decent 8" or 9" chefs or cooks knife should be the basic starter knife. Its sort of the "little black dress" of a knife wardrobe. You can carve a chicken, chop an onion, smash garlic and cut a winter squash with ease with a cook's knife. Technically, you can use it for just about any kitchen task. Next up consider a good 3" to 4"  paring knife for what it was intended: little jobs like trimming mushrooms or peeling shallots. The only other knife you really need after a good chefs and paring, is something serrated. Big or small, that's your choice, but it can't be beat for cutting into juicy fruits and vegetables without squishing them, and cutting bread.

We've got a huge collection of knives; probably nearly 100, but the ones below are the ones I use the most. They are razor sharp, and go where I direct them. Usually, lol. When a knife is dull, it's more likely to slide off the tomato and onto your thumb. Ask me how I know this.  I also know this: go to your local, independent kitchenware store and ask about some good cooking knives. The folks there will not only be able to help you select the right ones for you and how you cook, but also show you how to hold them, and how to care for them. Get a few good ones, learn to use them and practice, and you won't be sorry. Promise.

I take just as good care of my pet knives as my pet animals.

No comments:

Post a Comment